Archive for May, 2010

Pakistanis for Palestine condemns Israel’s attack on the International Freedom Flotilla

Posted in Apartheid, Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions, Take Action, Why Boycott?!, Zionism on May 31, 2010 by Marcy Newman

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Date: 31-May-2010

Press Statement

Pakistanis for Palestine condemns the naked aggression of the Israeli Defence Forces against the international “Freedom Flotilla”, the convoy of ships attempting to carry humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip that has been unilaterally blockaded by Israel since June 2007. The ships were in international waters, about 150 km off the coast of Gaza, where Israel has no jurisdiction.

Current death toll: 20, Injured: more than 60

We demand:

1. That the United Nations include the Israeli Defence Forces in its list of terrorist organisations and put Israel on the list of states that officially sponsor terrorism;

2. That “the international community” end its hypocritical attitude towards Israel and authorise international news media to report objectively on acts of Israeli aggression; and

3. That Pakistan should use its status as the most important non-NATO ally of the US to pressure it to punish Israel for this gross violation of international humanitarian law

It is time for people of conscience all over the world to demand the end of the apartheid regime in Israel, the last colonial state in this post-colonial world, and to join the worldwide movement for the Boycott of, Sanctions on and Divestment from all organizations and entities that support the racist ideology of Zionism.

For more information on the BDS campaign, see: http://bdsmovement.net/

We subscribe to the three principles laid out in the Palestinian call for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel that calls on Israel to:

1. End its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantling the Wall;

2. Recognize the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality; and

3. Respect, protect and promote the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN resolution 194.

For more information, see: http://www.pacbi.org/campaign_statement.htm

We call on all Pakistanis who support the principles listed above to join the campaign.

Please contact us at:

Cell phones: 0344-4648479 & 0323-4160352

Email address: PakistanisForPalestine[at]gmail.com

Online petition: http://spreadsheets.google.com/viewform?formkey=dFNRb2pFbXQwT2ZXa2VHNUg1Zk01S0E6MA

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Palestinians boycott settlers

Posted in Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions on May 31, 2010 by Marcy Newman

A comprehensive, cross-factional boycott of Jewish settlement products and produce has been launched across the West Bank, writes Khaled Amayreh

There are as many as half a million Jewish settlers enjoying constant army protection in the West Bank. The vast majority of these are indoctrinated in an extreme right-wing ideology that views non-Jews living in Israel and the occupied territories as “lesser human beings”.

Some of the religious mentors of these settlers openly teach that non-Jews living under Jewish rule — i.e. Palestinians — should be enslaved, expelled or annihilated. When challenged, these rabbis and mentors readily quote from the Old Testament and Talmud to corroborate their oft-genocidal viewpoints.

The settlers are vehemently against the concept of peace with the Palestinians. They claim that retaining “the land of Israel” is far more important than making peace with the Arabs. Their most common slogan is “Arabs to the desert”. The more fanatical settlers, such as those of Hebron, have been heard to say “Arabs to the gas chambers”. Signs bearing such slogans are prominently featured in the small Jewish enclave in the occupied Palestinian town.

This week, the Palestinian Authority (PA) began implementing a widespread campaign to boycott products manufactured in Jewish settlements and agricultural produce grown in as many as 100 Jewish colonies in the West Bank, many established on land seized by force from Palestinian landowners.

The boycott, backed by all Palestinian factions, including Hamas, is viewed as a rare and effective Palestinian asset to show Israel that the occupation doesn’t pay off and that the Palestinian people will not allow themselves to finance Israeli oppression and repression.

PA President Mahmoud Abbas and his prime minister, Salam Fayyad, displayed enthusiastic approval of the boycott, with Abbas taking part in a Ramallah ceremony launching the boycott campaign and Fayyad seen taking part in burning settlement products.

Abbas has also been seen pasting a bumper sticker on his villa’s door in Ramallah, declaring, “This house is empty of settlement products.” Tens of thousands of similar stickers have been pasted on Palestinian doors throughout the West Bank.

Defending the unprecedented step, which many Palestinians think is belated and of uncertain effect, given the difficulty of ascertaining the origin of many Israeli commodities reaching the Palestinian market, Abbas said the boycott in no way constituted a boycott of Israeli products. “We are not boycotting Israel, we are only boycotting the settlements, and as far as we are concerned, the settlements are not Israel.”

The Palestinian leader went as far as saying, “I will not incite against Israel and will not urge my people to boycott Israel.”

Israel, including the settlements, exports more than $5 billion worth of goods to the West Bank and Gaza Strip. In most cases, the Palestinians have no choice but to “import” these goods since they have no control over their border crossings, nor can they directly import commodities from abroad. In short, everything the Palestinians need must come either from Israel itself or through Israel, which means that Israel has an absolute monopoly over Palestinian imports.

On the other hand, the Palestinians are not free to export to Israel as their freedom of movement — especially their ability to enter Israel — is severely restricted by the Israeli occupation army. Israel employs as many as 25,000 Palestinian workers, most of them suffering extremely humiliating working conditions.

All in all, Palestinians export to Israel no more than $700 million worth of products and agricultural produces per year — a shocking imbalance in trade between the occupied and the occupier.

Nonetheless, the settlers, who have arrogated the lion’s share of Palestinian water resources in the West Bank and who continue to expand their illegal colonies at their neighbours’ expense, have complained about the boycott which they called “economic terrorism”. Some settler leaders have demanded that the Israeli army seal entry points to Palestinian population centres and initiate a counter-boycott of Palestinian products. Others have asked the Israeli government to deduct hundreds of millions of dollars from Palestinian customs revenue collected by Israel on behalf of the PA government.

Settlements in the Bethlehem region have warned that they will fire hundreds of Palestinian labourers working in local factories. Others have resorted to relabelling their products as originating in Israel proper, in order to trick PA inspection teams.

However, Israeli countermeasures and threats have so far failed to stop or discourage the house-to-house Palestinian campaign against settlement products and produce. In fact, the PA has already gone one step further by enacting a law stipulating that anyone who deals in goods produced in Jewish settlements will be imprisoned for two to five years and fined up to $15,000.

The law states, furthermore, that those who import settlement products into the Palestinian-run territories could face a jail sentence of up to six years and fines of up to $3,000 and confiscation of licences and vehicles.

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has lambasted the Palestinian campaign against settlement products as “counterproductive to peace” and “a hostile act”. In statements carried by the Israeli media, Netanyahu claimed that the Palestinian campaign would hurt the Palestinians more than Israel.

“When the Palestinians take steps that hurt them, that harm their own populace and drag down their standard of living, or when they refuse to advance — for example, when they refuse to build water purification plants, without which they damage our shared aquifers and contaminate their own water supply — these things are not in the spirit of peace.”

In response, one Palestinian official, Mohamed Shtayyeh, termed Netanyahu’s remarks “hypocritical and mendacious from A to Z”. “This man is a pathological liar. He thinks it is perfectly okay to keep millions of Palestinians in a state of perpetual economic enslavement to the ‘master race.'”

Shtayyeh also castigated Netanyahu’s concept of “economic peace”, calling it a trick or ruse to cover up and divert attention from Jewish settlement expansion. “Netanyahu thinks that boycotting products manufactured by these land thieves is anti-peace while the unrelenting expansion of Jewish colonies at the expense of Palestinian land is conducive to peace. This is more than chutzpah. This is sickness of the mind.”

The Palestinian official took issue with Netanyahu comparing the settlement of Maali Adumim, near East Jerusalem, with Tel Aviv in importance to Israel. “If he thinks that Maali Adumim is as important for Israel as Tel Aviv is, then we have the right to view Haifa and Yaffa as the same important for us as Ramallah and Nablus are.”

Netanyahu has long made statements about forging “economic peace” with the Palestinians, which according to him would prepare the ground for political peace. However, most Palestinians, including the Palestinian Authority and Hamas, have vehemently rejected Netanyahu’s proposals, dismissing them as “red herrings” aimed at gaining time in order to take over more Palestinian land and build more Jewish settlements.

Opération Boycott, Dijon 29/05/2010

Posted in International BDS Actions on May 30, 2010 by Marcy Newman

Dijon 29/05/2010 rue de la liberté opération “Boycott”

BDS at UC Berkeley: The Campaign, The Vote, and The Veto by Youmna Derby and Dina Omar*

Posted in Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions on May 30, 2010 by Marcy Newman

“Education either functions as an instrument which is used to facilitate integration of the younger generation into the logic of the present system and bring about conformity or it becomes the practice of freedom, the means by which men and women deal critically and creatively with reality and discover how to participate in the transformation of their world.”
Paulo Freire (Pedagogy of the Oppressed)

In the early morning of March 18th 2010, the University of California Berkeley Student Senate (ASUC) passed a bill to divest from companies providing military support for the Israeli Occupation of the Palestinian Territories. The “Divestment From War Crimes” bill, SB118A, specifically targets two companies that enable and profit from conflict in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT), among other places. Debate on the bill began the night of March 17th at 9 pm. More than 150 students, educators and concerned community members attended the senate session, forcing the meeting’s relocation to a larger room. Never before had the ASUC’s chambers been so crowded, signifying the importance of and interest in Israel-Palestine on Berkeley’s campus. The late night session culminated in the overwhelming endorsement of the bill in a 16 to 4 vote, taken at 3am on March 18th. While Berkeley’s Associated Student Body President vetoed the bill approximately one week later, the legislation’s initial success is a milestone for divestment activists at Berkeley and beyond. The story of the bill’s passage, which was the result of nearly a decade of on-campus student activism, is the story of the divestment campaign at UC Berkeley.

The Birth of SJP and Divestment as a Tactic

It is no coincidence that Berkeley is one of the first large academic institutions to leverage its investments as a tool to end injustice in the OPT. The university has a long precedent of using such tactics to achieve social change. In the past, Berkeley has divested from apartheid South Africa, tobacco companies, and the Sudan, as a consequence of the conflict in Darfur. Furthermore, Berkeley is an institution with a vanguard of professors that continually challenge students to tackle issues of justice and inequality in the world. Among these are eminent scholars, such as Judith Butler, Laura Nader, and Beshara Doumani, as well as academics with seasoned activist backgrounds, like Hatem Bazian. Together they have promoted the praxis of knowledge: the practical use of knowledge learned in the classrooms towards solving real-world problems.

The injustices committed by the Israeli government in the OPT have been well documented by United Nations committees and international non-governmental organizations, like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. Moved by these human rights violations, as well as the increase in violence and injustice in the Palestinian Territories that came with the start of the Second Intifada, Berkeley students began to consider the use of divestment as a means of intervention in late 2000. Only a few months later on February 6, 2001, Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) officially launched its divestment campaign. Over the years, SJP Berkeley’s initiative would inspire a nationwide movement for justice on the Israel-Palestinian issue at over 40 university campuses across the nation.

Approximately one year later, on April 9, 2002, SJP’s demonstration commemorating the 1948 Deir Yassin Massacre grew into the second symbolic occupation of UC Berkeley’s Wheeler Hall–students had occupied the building for the first time in April 2001. The student protestors included divestment on their list of demands. Will Youmans, a leading Berkeley SJP organizer at the time, explained the objectives of divestment as a political tactic in an October 25, 2002 article for Counter Punch:

The goal for divestment is an objective, non-partisan American policy to replace its destructive, pro-Israeli bias that ultimately furthers the wasting of lives on both sides. Divestment advocates seek to disconnect Israel from America’s womb. This does what the United States has failed to do: treat Israel as another country in the world’s community of nations. It is time Israel face the responsibilities and expectations codified in international law and necessary for a peaceful resolution to its conflict with the land’s natives.

Between the 2001 launch of the campaign and the divestment bill’s introduction in March 2010, there were definite dips in SJP’s divestment efforts. In part, this was due to the student turnover inherent to on-campus organizations and the consequent gap it engendered in the institutional memory of groups such as the SJP. When coupled with SJP’s subsequent involvement in other political and social causes, such as the defense of the 79 students and community members who faced prosecution after the 2002 takeover of Wheeler Hall, as well as the group’s active opposition to the 2003 Iraq War, SJP’s silence on divestment is more explicable.

Informing Students about Palestine

Throughout the years, Berkeley SJP has continually participated in Israeli Apartheid Week. For three consecutive years, IAW has greatly influenced popular opinion on campus by educating students about the facts on the ground in Palestine, while at the same time encouraging them to connect the Palestinian issues with different struggles for justice around the globe. Through SJP’s involvement in other student coalitions and initiatives, the group has become one of the largest student organizations on Berkeley’s campus.

According to Yaman Salahi, an SJP member for four years, one of the organization’s accomplishments has been its ability to foster individual relationships and create bonds between people from different parts of campus, which has created visibility for SJP and the Palestinian issue at large. According to Salahi, “the most important aspect involved the actual interactions students had with one another on campus, rather than the flawed media coverage which failed to convey information about Palestine or SJP’s message. Student activities also improved the knowledge of people within SJP and prepared us for this phase of divestment.”

Indeed, SJP’s focus on internal education, as well as its diverse membership, has given the group a solid and deep roster of activists who can speak about the Israel-Palestine issue from multiple perspectives.

SJP encourages and engages in reflection about race and power, and the means by which these phenomena unfold throughout the world, on campus, and in the group’s own internal dynamics. The lessons learned on these issues are crucial to SJP’s ability to withstand the opposition it and its members regularly face on campus. Throughout SJP’s tenure, the group and its members have been under constant scrutiny and have been the targets of personal harassment and intimidation. In the past, SJP has been suspended by the University administration and has faced frequent institutional obstacles. Its members have been subjected to personal attacks and defamation, and have been threatened with and have even faced lawsuits. Last year, three SJP members were victims of a hate crime according to the University of California Police Department.

Although the group and its members continued to face these obstacles during the 2009-2010 academic year, SJP had also become more adept at countering these setbacks and moving forward with its divestment agenda. A visit from the spokesman for the Palestinian Campaign for the Cultural and Academic, Omar Barghouti, helped SJP navigate its divestment strategy and was the final push needed to bring the divestment bill, which had been in the works for months, to the floor of the ASUC.

The Divestment Bill and Beyond

SB118A calls for divestment of ASUC investments from General Electric and United Technologies, two companies that have directly aided the Israeli Occupation of the Palestinian Territories. The bill also recommends that the UC Regents, a body that controls investments for the entire University of California system, follow suit.

Amongst the 70 audience member-speakers at the ASUC meeting, there was deliberation and self-expression of every sort. Those who spoke both for and against the bill came from a variety of different backgrounds. Speakers included freshmen students, faculty members and members of prominent community organizations such as Jewish Voices for Peace, Progressive Democrats of the East Bay, and the Berkeley Hillel. At one point or another, men and women from the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, Israel, Egypt, Mexico and Pakistan held the microphone to advocate for or against the bill’s passage.

Amongst the bill’s supporters were individuals from a diversity of religious and ethnic backgrounds, expressing a variety of reasons in favor of the bill’s adoption. Those supporters from amongst the Jewish community insisted that the Israeli occupation did not represent the position of the Jewish community in its totality. By endorsing the bill, these members of the Jewish community, committed to the attainment of peace and justice in the OPT, hoped to convey to the Israeli government the message that its policies were “not in their name”. Palestinian students, some of whom were visiting from the OPT and others whose parents had emigrated to the U.S. decades ago, shared their narratives of dispossession under Occupation, and spoke of the bill as one of the few effective, non-violent means of resisting the conditions that continued to exist in the OPT. Other supporters connected the Palestinian issue to other struggles for civil and human rights around the globe. Students of Armenian, African-American and Hispanic origin spoke of how their respective histories of discrimination and suffering gave them a more intimate understanding and empathy for the Palestinian struggle.

Amongst those who opposed the bill, most came from within the Berkeley student community, with a large majority identifying as either Jewish or Israeli. Their concerns with the bill fit into several themes. Paramount amongst these was a concern that the bill singled out Israel, “the only democracy in the Middle East”, for reprimand and criticism, while other “non-democratic” countries escaped rebuke. They painted the bill as “taking sides” in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Divestment, they argued, was not the best way to address the conflict, could further aggravate the situation by alienating or marginalizing moderate voices within Israeli society, and would lend support to those Israeli politicians espousing right wing policies. Some opponents spoke about Israel’s right to self-defense against Palestinian aggression, cautioned the student senators against treading into overly complex political territory about which they were ill-informed, and advised against meddling in Israeli affairs. Others suggested that the bill would alienate a sector of the Berkeley student population who disagreed with its claims and who might feel targeted as a result of its endorsement by the ASUC.

These arguments spurred strong responses from the bill’s supporters. They referred to past ASUC divestment bills, in 1986 against companies investing in apartheid South Africa and in 2005 against companies involved in the Sudan, to counter claims that Israel was being singled out for rebuke and to demonstrate the ASUC’s historical commitment to divesting from countries with a demonstrated record of violating human rights and international law. Supporters reminded the audience that consciously choosing to address political issues had always, and proudly, been a prerogative of UC Berkeley students.

Bearing witness to the ASUC senate meeting that night was bearing witness to democratic practice at work: its arduousness and cumbersome reliance on persuasion, deliberation and compromise.

The Veto

After a week of criticism and praise of the bill by the media, other campuses and local and international organizations, the President of the Associated Student Body at Berkeley, Will Smelko, exercised his right to veto the legislation. Smelko’s reasons for issuing the veto were similar to the arguments raised by the bill’s opponents on March 17-18th. In essence, Smelko suggested that the bill made a decision about a historically complicated issue in haste, ran the risk of alienating part of the student body, and unfairly singled out Israel for reprimand and punishment. In response, SJP published a rebuttal to Smelko’s veto, pointing out perceptible holes in his argument, recounting the positive ways in which the bill addressed a troubling situation, emphasizing the broad and diverse campus support the bill enjoyed and highlighting its connection with Berkeley’s long tradition of taking explicit stands against injustice.

On April 14th, the ASUC met to decide whether the presidential veto should be upheld. With 700 attendants, the turnout overwhelmingly superseded the intial March 18th vote. The attendance level was undoubtedly the result of the marked publicity that the bill’s passage and subsequent veto had received, including public statements made by notable figures like Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Judith Butler, and Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel.

At the meeting, both proponents and opponents of the bill presented a series of well-known speakers in an attempt to sway the vote to their respective sides. Holocaust survivor Hedi Esptein and Prof. Judith Butler spoke on the bill’s behalf, while Akiva Tor, Israeli Consul General for the Pacific Northwest, spoke against it. After 7.5 hours of deliberation, the ASUC voted on a motion to table the bill and to reconvene for additional deliberation on April 28th. After an intense week of lobbying, which included a unique alliance between AIPAC, Hillel, and J Street amongst others to uphold the veto, the April 28th vote fell one vote short of the 14 votes necessary for override, with 5 votes in favor of the veto and 13 against. Divestment opponents had managed to convince three senators, who had originally supported SB118A, to switch sides.

Despite this setback, the divestment bill had already achieved much of its purpose. It had spurred dialogue and debate about Israeli Occupation of the Palestinian Territories on campuses and in communities nation-wide. It had educated Berkeley students who knew little about the issue, by bringing it to the forefront of campus news. It had broadened and consolidated SJP’s connections to the ever-widening network of organizations and individuals working for justice in Palestine. As in the case of most campaigns for justice, equality and freedom, movements don’t die, they multiply. In the academic semesters and years to come, we remain confident that there will be a watershed of new university-based divestment campaigns aimed at bringing justice to the Palestinian Territories.

*Youmna Derby is a graduate student at UC Berkeley.

Dina Omar is a graduate of UC Berkeley, with a degree in Middle Eastern Studies and Anthropology, and is currently the membership coordinator at the Arab Resource and Organizing Center.

USACBI DEMONSTRATES AGAINST RECOGNITION of SETTLER COLONIAL UNIVERSITY by ACADEMIC CONFERENCE

Posted in International BDS Actions on May 30, 2010 by Marcy Newman

Informational pickets start to gather Left - acbi campaigners Sasan Fayazmanesh, Vida Samiian, Dennis Kortheurer; right - David Klein and Edit Pistolesi

USACBI campaign members were joined by 15 members of Anti-Racist Network, USC SJP, Women in Black, the National Lawyers Guild and assorted individuals to protest recognition of settler colonial Ariel University by ISIS (International Society for Iranian Studies). Despite an ongoing campaign, including a Joint Letter by 120 academics, ISIS refused to drop the Ariel University identification of a settler colonial speaker.

Their signs said it all, as the picketers stood behind a brick apartheid wall and lined two sides of the hotel driveway; and they laid out their argument in fliers distributed to incoming ISIS conferees.

ACBI Organizing Committee Members Edie Pistolesi (l) and Sherna Gluck (r) With NLG supporter Carole Smith in middle Wall and signs by acbi sign maker, Edie Pistolesi

Hearing the buzz inside the conference registration area, many of those who had arrived the previous day came out to the informational picketers to get the prepared literature and talk.

Former ISIS president Ahmad Karimi-Hakkak came out with a TV camera crew and talked with some of the organizers of the ISIS campaign.

Afshin Matin-Asgari (middle) Vida Samiian (r)

In a 30 minute exchange, Karimi-Hakkak claimed he opposed occupation and argued that the matter was being reviewed by ISIS. He was clearly upset by the public accusation that ISIS supported apartheid.

USACBI Organizing Committee members confront a former ISIS president

Although he refused to admit that ISIS would have ignored the entire issue had it not been for the campaign, he did acknowledge that the hastily constructed panel to with UCLA Zionist zealot Judea Pearl was added did not follow normal protocol. That, too, is being investigated. So, perhaps taking a lesson from the Obama administration, ISIS is handling controversy by appointing “commissions.”

As Washington Report on Middle East Affairs (WRMEA) southern California correspondent, Pat Twair, commented, “BDS has given Israel notice that no more dirty tricks will go unseen.”

Bernie Eisenberg behind bars

NLG Executive Director Jim Lafferty negotiating with Santa Monica police

Reza Pour behind bars

BNC warmly welcomes Deutsche Bank’s divestment from Israeli arms co. Elbit

Posted in BDS Success, Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions on May 30, 2010 by Marcy Newman

Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee (BNC)

Deutsche Bank announces divestment from Elbit

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

May 27 2010

For more information contact:

In Palestine: Jamal Juma’, BNC Secretariat, Stop the Wall Coordinator

+972-598921821 / global[at]stopthewall.org

In Europe: Michael Deas, BNC Europe Coordinator

+447794678525 / bnc.europe[at]bdsmovement.net

· Deutsche Bank announces divestment from Israeli arms manufacturer Elbit Systems after campaign from German human rights organisations

· Elbit Systems supplies Israeli military and provides components for Apartheid Wall ruled illegal by International Court of Justice

· Deutsche Bank’s divestment follows similar steps by banks and pension funds in three Scandinavian countries.

Occupied Palestine – Germany’s biggest bank Deutsche Bank has divested the bank’s 2% stake in Elbit Systems, an Israeli arms company that supplies the Israeli military and provides components for the Apartheid Wall in Occupied Palestinian Territory that was found to be in violation of international law by the International Court of Justice.[i] The announcement at the Bank’s AGM today follows a concerted campaign from German human rights organisations.

As part of a long term campaign, Pax Christi and International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW) asked Deutsche Bank shareholders to vote against a routine motion of confidence in the board of directors because of their failure to divest from Elbit Systems, and activists held a lively demonstration outside the AGM in Frankfurt am Main.

In response, Deutsche Bank chairperson Josef Ackermann told the AGM, “Deutsche Bank is out of Elbit”. Ackermann went on to explain that the bank could not invest in Elbit because of its commitment to voluntary codes of conduct such as the UN Global Compact and even went as far as to deny that Deutsche Bank had ever held shares in Elbit, in direct contravention to figures published by Nasdaq.com.[ii]

Wiltrud Rösch-Metzler, Vicepresident of Pax Christi Germany, said, “The end of the investment in Elbit is a huge success. Deutsche Bank assured us that they do not have investments in Elbit. They went out of their way to list numerous standards and international ethical commitments to which the Bank is party to, highlighting how Elbit investments would violate them all. This statement is a landmark position that should guide other German, European and global finance institutions”, she said.

In a passionate speech, Rösch-Metzler had earlier told the AGM: “Do you still remember the days of apartheid in South Africa? Palestinians call it an Apartheid Wall, because it surrounds them, closes them in, shuts them into enclaves; because this Wall creates Palestinian Bantustans. How can Deutsche Bank profit from the oppression of Palestinians? If obvious human rights and international law criteria are violated, will the Deutsche Bank continue to be co-responsible for this?”

The chain of divestments from Elbit started when Stop the Wall, the grassroots Palestinian anti-apartheid wall campaign and a long term partner of IPPNW and Pax Christi, moved together with its Norwegian partners to persuade Norway’s Minister of Finance Kristin Halvorsen to announce that the Norwegian State Pension Fund had sold its shares in Elbit, worth $5.4 million. Inspired by this, campaigners in other countries started pressuring finance institutions on the issue. Danske Bank and PKA Ltd, two of the largest Danish pension funds, Folksam, Sweden’s largest asset manager and ABP, a Dutch asset manager, have all divested their funds from Elbit Systems.[iii]

A spokesperson for the Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC), a wide coalition of the largest Palestinian mass organisations, trade unions, networks and organisations, said: “Palestinian civil society warmly welcomes the principled decision taken by Deutsche Bank’s to end its complicity in Israel’s oppression of the Palestinian people. This decision by a bank of the clout and size of Deutsche Bank, particularly following similar steps by a number of Scandinavian financial institutions, shows that social and ethical responsibility cannot be ignored in conducting international business. The BNC calls on all people of conscience and supporters of universal human rights in Germany to continue their efforts and to ensure that other German institutions follow the example of Deutsche Bank and divest from Elbit and every other company, Israeli or international, that profits from Israel’s occupation and apartheid.”

Notes

a. As of March 312010 Deutsche Bank still owned 2% of Elbit Systems and was the 5th biggest investor in the company. See: http://www.nasdaq.com/asp/holdings.asp?symbol=ESLT&selected=ESLT

b. Elbit Systems is an Israeli weapons company that provides electronic detection fences for use in the Israeli Separation Wall in Occupied Palestinian Territory. The company supplied UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) to the Israeli army, which are in operational use in during combat in the West Bank and Gaza.[iv]

c. The International Court of Justice ruled in 2004 that the construction of the wall is illegal under international law and that all states have a duty to ensure that Israel complies with international law.[v]

d. Pax Christi International is a non-profit, non-governmental Catholic peace movement working on a global scale on a wide variety of issues in the fields of human rights, human security, disarmament and demilitarisation, just world order and religion and violent conflict.

e. International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW) is a non-partisan federation of national medical organizations in 62 countries, representing tens of thousands of doctors, medical students, other health workers, and concerned citizens who share the common goal of creating a more peaceful and secure world freed from the threat of nuclear annihilation. This year’s annual General Assembly of the German section has called on the Deutsche Bank to end its investment in the Israeli arms corporation Elbit. Deutsche Bank has 2% of the arms company and is the fifth biggest investor in Elbit. IPPNW is a long term partner of Stop the Wall.

f. Stop the Wall is a grassroots Palestinian campaign against the apartheid wall. The Palestinian grassroots Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign is a coalition of Palestinian non governmental organizations and popular committees that mobilize and coordinate efforts on local, national and international levels. These efforts are focused upon stopping and dismantling the Apartheid Wall, and resisting Israeli occupation and colonization. A call for a coordinated, popular, and grassroots effort to tear down the Wall came out of Jerusalem on the 2nd of October 2002, from the office of the Palestinian Environmental NGOs Network (PENGON).

g. The Palestinian BDS National Committee is a broad alliance of Palestinian political parties, trade unions and NGOs. In 2005, Palestinian civil society issued a unified call for a campaign of Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel until it complies with international law and Palestinian rights.

[i][i] http://www.icj-cij.org/docket/index.php?pr=71&code=mwp&p1=3&p2=4&p3=6&case=131&k=5a

[ii] http://www.nasdaq.com/asp/holdings.asp?symbol=ESLT&selected=ESLT

[iii] http://electronicintifada.net/v2/article11084.shtml
http://www.kibush.co.il/datapage.asp?lang=1&section=7&yr=2010&mn=2

[iv] http://whoprofits.org/Company%20Info.php?id=554

[v] http://www.icj-cij.org/docket/index.php?pr=71&code=mwp&p1=3&p2=4&p3=6&case=131&k=5a

British Academic Union Makes BDS History, Severing Links with Histadrut and Boycotting Ariel College

Posted in BDS Success, Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions on May 30, 2010 by Marcy Newman

PACBI | 30 May 2010

Ramallah, Occupied Palestine
30 May 2010

The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI)expresses its profound appreciation for the courageous positions in support of Palestinian rightstaken by the membership of the University and College Union (UCU) at its Congress today inManchester. The UCU has again firmly and decisively established its unwavering commitment to the Palestinian civil society’s campaign for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) againstIsrael until it complies with its obligations under international law and recognizes the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people. Making history in the international trade union movement in the West, UCU’s Congress also voted with an overwhelming majority to “sever all relations with Histadrut, and to urge other trade unions and bodies to do likewise.” The UCU has today confirmed its established position that it is legitimate to denounce Israel’s oppressive policies and to hold the state and its complicit institutions accountable for human rights abuses, war crimes and ethnic cleansing.

The Histadrut’s long standing partnership in the Israeli state’s colonization, ethnic cleansing and racial discrimination against the Palestinian people, particularly its statement on January 13th, 2009 supporting Israel’s war crimes in the occupied and besieged Gaza strip, has been condemned by a number of trade unions, including the British Communications Workers Union (CWU) [1] and others in Belgium, Spain, France, Norway and around the world. The Scottish Trade Union Congress (STUC) has recently decided to review its relations with the Histadrut with a view to severing them.

PACBI applauds the UCU’s reaffirmation of its determination to implement BDS measures within the existing constraints. On a practical level, we appreciate the decision “to seek in conjunction with other trade unions, nationally and internationally, to establish an annual international conference on BDS, a trade union sponsored BDS website and a research centre on commercial, cultural and academic complicity with Israeli breaches of international law.” These resolutions will have a far reaching impact on enhancing the global BDS movement, particularly in providing the needed resources for furthering the academic boycott of Israel. The Congress’s decision to campaign actively against the EU-Israel Association Agreement in coordination with other trade unions and solidarity movements is another milestone that responds to a central appeal of the Palestinian civil society BDS campaign. We also appreciate the UCU’s decision to work with other bodies in supporting the membership of the Palestinian Federation of Unions of University Professors and Employees (PFUUPE) in Education International.

Through these decisions, the UCU joins other UK and international unions and public bodies in endorsing and implementing BDS. Most recently, the Scottish Trade Union Congress (STUC) reaffirmed in its annual meetings its BDS policy. Days earlier, the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) had also reaffirmed its own overwhelming support for BDS. The British TUC has also launched with the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign (PSC) an important drive aimed at implementing a wide boycott of Israeli colonies’ products and services, as a first step towards a more comprehensive application of BDS, as called for in the TUC’s last congress.

Creative and effective realization of BDS policies has become a theme among trade unions and TU federations from South Africa’s COSATU to the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW). In 2009, Hampshire College in the US became the first in the West to divest from companies profiting from the Israeli occupation. Many other universities in North America are witnessing similar divestment campaigns at various stages of development. Norway and Sweden have recently divested their respective pension funds of all stock in Elbit Systems, a leading Israeli military manufacturer implicated in violations of international law. Besides the UK, campaigns supporting PACBI’s Call for an academic and cultural boycott of Israel have sprung up in the US,Spain, France, Italy, India, Australia, Pakistan, South Africa, among other countries. Leading cultural figures of the calibre of Elvis Costello, Gil Scott-Heron and Carlos Santana have heeded the call to cancel performances in Israel in protest over its persistent suppression of Palestinian rights. Some of the largest supermarket chains in Italy have decided to stop carrying Israeli colonies’ products.

PACBI especially welcomes the UCU Congress resolution to “commence the investigatory process associated with the imposition of a boycott of Ariel College,” a college-colony built on occupied Palestinian territory, as a first step in implementing the academic boycott against the Israeli academy. It is worth noting that the Spanish Government had excluded an Israeli academic team from Ariel College from a sustainable architecture competition last year for the same reasons. All Israeli universities are deeply linked to the military-security establishment, playing indispensable — direct and indirect — roles in perpetuating Israel’s decades-old violations of international law and fundamental Palestinian rights. No Israeli university or academic union has ever taken a public position against the occupation, let alone against Israel’s system of apartheid or the denial of Palestinian refugee rights. Israeli universities are profoundly complicit in developing weapons systems and military doctrines deployed in Israel’s recent war crimes in Gaza [2]; justifying the ongoing colonization of Palestinian land and gradual ethnic cleansing of the indigenous Palestinians [3]; providing moral justification for extra-judicial killings and indiscriminate attacks against civilians [4]; systematically discriminating against “non-Jewish” students in admissions, dormitory room eligibility, financial aid, etc.; and many other implicit and explicit violations of human rights and international law. [5]

Finally, we salute the UCU membership for its effective and consistent solidarity in pushing BDSforward and for its politically and morally sound contribution to the struggle to end oppression and uphold universal human rights for all.

[1] http://www.pacbi.org/etemplate.php?id=1075&key=Histadrut
[2] See, for example, the following incriminating evidence against Tel Aviv University’s partnership with the Israeli army and weapons industries: http://www.electronicintifada.net/downloads/pdf/090708-soas-palestine-society.pdf
[3] http://www.pacbi.org/etemplate.php?id=63
[4] http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1062127 and Reuven Pedatzur, The Israeli Army House Philosopher, Haaretz, 24 February 2004.
[5] http://www.alternativenews.org/images/stories/downloads/Economy_of_the_occupation_23-24.pdf

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